History of Longwood Plantation
East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana
Longwood Plantation was added to Louisiana’s National Register of Historic Places on July 17, 1983. A former sugar cane plantation, it used to occupy all the land from the Mississippi River to Highland Road. The original tract was a land grant from Charles III King of Spain through the Treaty of Alliance (sometimes referred to as the Treaty of San Ildefonso). The area is situated along the east bank of the Mississippi River approximately 8 miles (13 km) southeast of downtown Baton Rouge in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana; Greensburg District, 10417 River Road, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The center of Longwood Plantation is just over 1 mile (1.6 km) upriver from the mouth of Bayou Manchac. Bayou Manchac once served as the international boundary separating British West Florida from Spanish Louisiana and later Spanish West Florida from the American Territory of Louisiana.
Longwood Plantation is believed to have been established circa 1785, with the current house being built circa 1845. The house is a two-storied Greek Revival with four Doric columns supporting the two front porches. There are four chimneys that feed into seven rooms. They are on two floors at either end of the house. It was built in a non-traditional “T” floor pattern. A rear addition was added in the late 19th century, and an out building was later moved to the house and was converted into a kitchen by Sabin Joseph Gianelloni.
On gaining West Florida in 1752, the British began to realize the importance of Bayou Manchac as a possible route to bypass the Spanish controlled port of New Orleans. Many of the Native American groups of the such as the Houmas, Bayou Goula, and Homochitto that were familiar with the lower Mississippi River and surrounding Gulf Coastal Plain had long employed Bayou Manchac as a part of a route to the Gulf of Mexico that used the Amite River, Lake Maurepas, and Lake Pontchartrain as sort of a short cut to their settlements along the present Mississippi Gulf Coast. Pierre LeMoyne d’Iberville took this route in 1699 during his first voyage to Louisiana when descending the Mississippi to the French encampments at Biloxi. As a result of this, Bayou Manchac was sometimes referred to as the “Iberville River” during colonial times (Dalrymple 1978:12; McWilliams 1981: 82-85).
Bayou Manchac, particularly the upper stretches near the Mississippi River, was clogged with debris and was only used when the river was high. A British expedition led by Captain James Campbell was dispatched from Mobile in 1763 to start opening the channel of Bayou Manchac and digging a permanent connection into the Mississippi River. Work continued for six months, while British Governor George Johnston developed a plan to establish a small fort there to entice French and German families from Spanish Louisiana to settle at Manchac with promises of liberal land grants (Dalrymple 1978:12).
The British started building Fort Bute or Manchac Post (named in honor of John Stuart, the 3rd Earl of Bute) in 1765. It was intended to be a small fortification, designed to store supplies and house a garrison normally consisting of fifty men and a captain. It was to have six artillery pieces, and could house as many as 200 men during an emergency (Casey 1983:34). In August, 1765 an Indian raiding party attacked Ft. Bute, ransacking the stores and forcing the British troops to flee to New Orleans for protection. British troops returned to Manchac the following month to complete the fortification. A tract of land measuring a league (three statute miles) square around Fort Bute was also reserved for a planned settlement and additional fortifications (Casey 1983:34). The establishment for Fort Bute prompted Spanish officials to counter by starting the construction of Fort San Gabriel de Manchac (present day Saint Gabriel, Louisiana, Iberville Parish) in 1767 on the opposite side of Bayou Manchac. The fort was completed in 1768 and is initially fitted with four small guns (Casey 1983:193). In 1768, the British abandoned Fort Bute, taking the ordnance and destroying the gun emplacements.
During the British colonial period the core of what would be Longwood Plantation was within the league square reservation that was set aside for use of the military and for a development in the Longwood area at least until the Spanish colonial times. Two Spanish land grants would become the core of Longwood Plantation. The 1832 Surveyor General’s Office map shows that Zachariah Norton claimed Section 43. Little is known of Norton. John Fitzpatrick was a prominent merchant of Manchac. Fitzpatrick, a Roman Catholic who was born in Waterford, Ireland in 1737, claimed Section 44 of the 1832 Surveyor General’s Office map.
John Fitzpatrick died on March 20, 1791 and as customary for the time, the Spanish Commandant Rivas conducted a detailed inventory of the estate. The house where Fitzpatrick died, which was “next to the fort” (Fort Bute at Manchac) was described as being situated on two lots, constructed of wood. (EBR, Spanish West Florida Records, May 5, 1791, Vol. 1 [1782- 1790] p. 438). According to this inventory the estate lists “11 slaves, among them servants, field laborers, and a carpenter. Six of these were from Africa. Also enumerated were livestock that included: 14 cows; eight untamed oxen; three bulls; 28 heifers; 11 sows and 36 piglets, and 38 other swine.”
On June 1, 1794, Marie Nivet, the widow of John Fitzpatrick, sold to Marie Anne Decoux, the widow of William Hindson (also Henson). Marie Anne Decoux began building the original home in 1795, as well as the sugar house, hospital, grist mill, blacksmith shop, and slave cabins.
The property now being referred to as the “Decoux Plantation” supported at least 100 people. Chief crops were sugar, cotton (much later), corn and vegetables. These crops were loaded onto river flatboats then later steamboats at the plantation dock on the Mississippi River which flowed in front of the main house.
In 1822 the property was sold to Richard Clague and John Oldham, both co-partners in the firm of William Kenner & Company of New Orleans. William Kenner was a New Orleans planter, politician, and businessman. He was originally form Virginia and had moved to New Orleans from Natchez, Mississippi around 1800. Kenner owned two other sugar plantations on the Mississippi, including Linwood Plantation, Ascension Parish, Louisiana and Oakland Plantation, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. In 1820 a business partner of Kenner’s disappeared with much of the company’s assets, causing extreme financial difficulties (Conrad 1988:460). Clague and Oldham then sold what the plantation is now known as “Long Bois” (Longwood) to Josiah Barker of New York on April 25, 1827. Very little is known of Barker, though he owned the plantation for nearly 20 years.
The first records of sugar being produced at Longwood Plantation were during Barker’s ownership in 1828. That year he made 305 hogsheads of sugar. The following year he made 202 hogsheads (Degelos 1892:65).
A hogshead was also used as unit of measurement for sugar in Louisiana for most of the 19th century. Plantations were listed in sugar schedules as having produced x number of hogsheads of sugar or molasses. A standardized hogshead measured 48 inches (1,219 mm) long and 30 inches (762 mm) in diameter at the head (at least 550 L or 121 imp gal; 145 US gal, depending on the width in the middle).
In June, 1845 Barker sold the plantation to his son, Thomas Hazard Barker, for the sum of $150,000.00 (EBR, Mortgage Book K, p.462). Young Barker only owned the property for two years when he sold Longwood in February, 1847 to Thomas Mille of Iberville Parish, Louisiana and Jacques Philippe Meffre Rouzan of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana along with 93 slaves. The pair continued cultivating and making sugar.
During the 5 year partnership of Mille and Rouzan, the sugar production on Longwood increased significantly. Records for the growing season between 1849 and 1852 indicated an average production of nearly 500 hogsheads of sugar. Also by this time the sugar mill was listed as being “steam powered.” “The thought of steam power was most probably used at Longwood much earlier” (Champomier 1850-1852).
On April 23, 1852 Rouzan purchased Mille’s interest in Longwood. Rouzan continued producing vast amounts of sugar per growing season until the 1856 and 1857 growing season when production sank to only 43 hogsheads. This was most probably due to early October 1856 frost and disease. By 1858 and 1859 production returned to normal and continued with an average of 570 hogshead until the Federal invasion in 1862 (Champomier 1858-1859; Bouchereau 1869).
No historical information has been found that discloses how Longwood and the Rouzan Family fared during the Civil War.
Between 1868 and 1876, sugar production at Longwood fell far below what was recorded before the war. Now an average yield was around 200 hogsheads. This was due in part to the lack to labor that was common during reconstruction. During this time the plantation used open pans that were heated by steam and centrifugals, which were used to mechanically separate the molasses from the raw sugar. The sugar house was constructed of brick and had a slate roof (Bouchereau 1869-1876). In 1876, the open pans in Longwood’s sugar house were replaced with vacuum pans, thereby increasing production. That year Longwood produced 404 hogsheads of sugar (Bouchereau 1877).